I’m not sure what rock I’ve been living under, but I missed the memo about the new additions to the Plaza Food Hall. I knew that Todd English had taken over and installed a swanky food court of his own where you could sit anywhere and order from the sushi counter, raw bar, pasta station, pizza oven and rotisserie. Considering its location and proximity to Central Park, it was bound to be touristy and crowded, but it’s a good solution for diners who can’t decide what to eat for dinner because you can get a little of everything.
But the latest additions are a game changer. Living in midtown has always had its drawbacks, which mostly come in the form of overpriced restaurants. It’s not like living in the West Village where a funky, new restaurant with an ambitious chef opens weekly. I was walking by and wanted a cup of coffee, so I stopped in and stumbled upon a whole, new world of food. No. 7 Subs and Luke’s Lobster? In the Plaza? Really? Awesome. You’ve gotta love the newfangled food courts these days. The Plaza Food Hall boasts over twenty food kiosks, including Maison De Chocolat, Payard, Billy’s Bakery, and Three Tarts.
You might consider going for a run in the park, then rewarding yourself with lunch at the Plaza Food Court. Or you can skip the run and head directly to Luke’s Lobster for the Trio, a mini Lobster Roll, Shrimp Roll and Crab Roll with a bag of Malt Vinegar Potato Chips. Once upon a time, us uptowners had to work our way down to the East Village for Luke’s lightly spiced lobster knuckle and claw meat rolls with just a dab of mayo, a squirt of lemon, and nothing more, all tucked inside a warm, griddled hot dog bun. There’s a good New England Clam Chowder as well (though I’d skip the Peanut Butter Whoopie Pie with a Maine Blueberry filling, which is a tad too messy and cold).
Then again, the lure of No. 7 Subs’s Tilapia Melt is pretty powerful, too. The idea of Tilapia with melted havarti cheese, crunchy nibbles of fried garlic and shredded cabbage, stuffed into a sub roll may sound strange (a Tuna Melt comes to mind), but it’s easily worth devoting a lunch break or two to. So is the Roasted Broccoli Sub, layered with Ricotta Salata, pine nuts, shallots and sweet-spicy pickles. (I only wish they sold the pickles to-go!) Perhaps the most compelling sandwich is one chef Tyler Kord made exclusively for the Plaza Food Hall. It’s a clever ensemble, dubbed The No. 7 Sub Club, a complex layering of Turkey, Ham, “Pico De Lettuce”, Jalapeno Mayo, and a crunchy foil of BBQ Potato Chips. The lettuce is a crunchy, refreshing riff on pico de gallo with lettuce in lieu of tomatoes, onions and chilis.
Luke’s Lobster Trio
If you work in the area, you could make a habit of the food court. There’s a terrific Smoked Duck Tartine at Tartinery and a died and gone to heaven Pumpkin Corncake, an earthy corncake, topped with pumpkin batter and a sprinkling of sea salt flakes — a savory, sweet and satisfying pastry that just might be my new favorite comfort food for fall. While you’re there, sample the mini Black & White Red Velvet Cookies from William Greenberg, the Pumpkin Macarons at Payard, and Three Tarts’ Marshmallow Steamer, a hot and frothy drink made with homemade marshmallows and milk, that I could easily snuggle up with all winter long. While we’re on the subject of sweets, I recommend a visit to YoArte. All those frozen yogurt haters out there might change there mind after tasting this crazy cream yogurt. My only complaint is they took the Thin Mint yogurt off the menu and replaced it with Coffee yogurt instead! Fortunately, they also added Pumpkin which might be the best pumpkin yogurt I’ve had to date. Half the fun are the toppings at YoArte. While there’s too many to name, highlights include mint caviar, which an ingenious topping for the Thin Mint (can you tell I’m upset?), but good on chocolate, too. There’s chocolate clodhoppers, chocolate covered gummy bears, peanut dust, and more.
There’s also a Sushi of Gari, which I didn’t mention because I highly recommend you avoid it! The food is pricey and underwhelming at best — the kind of sushi you eat because you’re hungry then pray you won’t get sick from it. (Just saying.) I had to send back the Scallop Roll because it was so ominously fishy, and that’s never a good sign at a sushi joint I don’t care how fancy it is. But there’s so many other great spots, like Todd English’s Sausage Kiosk with great Chorizo Sausages, and even better traditional Hot Dogs, tucked inside your choice of a Brioche Bun or a Pretzel Bun (go with the pretzel). Or just order a Sigmund’s Pretzel on the side.